Museum of Ethnography
H-1146, Budapest, Dózsa György út 35.
Phone: +36 1 474 2100
The Folk Music Collection of the Museum of Ethnography can be broken down into the following units:
Musical Instruments Collection Audio Archive
At the time The Museum of Ethnography's profile began to become clear at the end of the 19th century, its collections and exhibitions already offered a number of musical instruments, including those procured by János Xántus in East and South-east Asia between 1869 and 1870 and those collected by Count Jenő Zichy from Russia and East Asia. Interestingly, the collection of similar Hungarian musical material commenced only much later, when the scientific basis for research in folk music was laid by Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály in the 20th century, and proceeded thereafter at a rather slow pace. Most of the instruments in the Folk Music Collection originate from the Carpathian Basin and thus represent Hungarian and neighbouring ethnic groups. The collection is both fully representative of the peoples it covers and unique in the same respect.
Numerous other collections of the Museum of Ethnography include musical instruments whose removal to the Collection of Musical Instruments it is felt would be inappropriate. However, all the museum's instruments will be brought together in a computerised catalogue currently under development.
In a little over a century, the Audio Archives of the Folk Music Collection have accumulated analogue machine recordings on over ten thousand melodies. The archive additionally offers a large number of items of textual folklore (folk tales, legends, superstitions, folk prayers, etc.), folk memoirs, oral history recordings, and interviews with noted ethnographers on events in their careers.
Phonograph Cylinder Collection
The first European to use the phonograph as a tool in ethnographic fieldwork was Béla Vikár, whose folk music recordings won him international fame at the Paris World's Fair of 1900. Soon after, at the beginning of the 20th century, Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, and their students managed to record 4,500 phonograph cylinders' worth of folk music at a time when traditional forms of folk culture still flourished. Fieldwork covered not only ethnic Hungarian groups, but also other residents of the Carpathian Basin, including Romanians, Slovaks, South Slavs, Ruthenians, Germans, Jews, the Roma people, the Csángó people of the Moldva River Valley (now in Romania), and, in Bartók's case, even the Anatolian Turks and Algerian Arabs, and, finally, the Hungarian-related peoples of the Volga region (the result of the research of Finnish scholar Irjö Wichmann). The phonograph continued to be used for the collection of folk music through the 1950's.
Collection of Gramophone Records
The Museum of Ethnography first experimented with the application of the gramophone for museological purposes in 1914. Two decades later, in 1936, four records of Transdanubian audio material were recorded with the support of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The project was followed by an effort in conjunction with Hungarian Radio targeting the recording of all existing Hungarian musical and textual folklore material on the new medium under the direction of several of the great names in Hungarian music; Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, and László Lajtha. By this time the instrument's recording stylus, capable of registering a frequency range of 600-1200 Hz, had been exchanged for electroacoustic microphones that could record frequencies ranging from 100 to 5000 Hz. Thus, the new technology offered improved sound quality even for the recording of orchestral music. Within a period of 9 years, 125 records were produced, of which 107 were released for commercial distribution. The resulting collection of records became known in professional circles as the Pátria series. In 2001, under the auspices of Fonó Records, the complete material of this series (including released and unreleased recordings) was released as a 3-disc CD-ROM set edited by Ferenc Sebő.
Collection of Magnetic Tape Recordings
In the 1950's magnetic tape came into use alongside the disc recording as a replacement for the phonograph cylinder. By 1952, the Museum of Ethnography was producing its disc recordings for the archives on magnetic tape, rather than cutting records in situ. In 1960 the Folk Music Department acquired 55 new tapes for the collection, and the re-recording of old phonograph cylinders onto magnetic tape was also begun. The goal in this latter activity was to spare existing cylinders from the wear caused by repeated use and to facilitate the handling of the recordings. After the museum acquired the Lajtha Group's collection in 1963, the pace of expansion began to slow, as the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Folk Music Research Group, formed during this time, had begun work on a central collection of Hungarian folk music, achieved partly by copying material provided by the museum and other public educational and cultural institutions and partly through the additional material provided by voluntary fieldworkers.
The museum Archives also include a collection of audio cassettes, whose presence is due in part to the lack of professional audio recording equipment, as well as to the practice of requesting the submission of recorded material with entries for various public amateur collectors' competitions. A small number of the folk music cassettes included were on general release at the time of buying.
Collection of Musical Video Recordings
In 1998, with the support of the National Priority Social Science Research Foundation, the museum succeeded in acquiring a 188-hour section of the video collection of István Pávai, including both material on Transylvanian and Moldva Valley village instrumental groups and interviews on how such groups traditionally operated, all on HiFi stereo video cassette. This significant acquisition will enable researchers to study not only the musical techniques involved, but also the visual communication between performers, musical performance techniques, and the relation between musician and dancer.
Music Documents Collection
The Musical Documents Collection contains papers it was felt could not be kept in the central archives by reason of the special musical subject material they involve (e.g. local fieldwork notebooks, museological notes, notes referring to the collections themselves, hand-written essays, etc.). This material still awaits philological organisation.
Collection of Folk Music Transcriptions
To call a conserved piece of sheet music a támlap, a word describing the product of gluing the hand-written transcription of a single melody from a phonograph cylinder onto a piece of cardboard, was originally Béla Vikár's idea. The preservation of such material in the order it was inventoried is useful in reconstructing the research process itself. Only the collection of material kept at the Museum of Ethnography allows classic phonograph and gramophone recordings to be tracked in this way, since the copies on inventory at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Musical Science Institute are grouped by musical category instead. The earliest items in the collection are over 100 years old, and the multi-coloured notes they preserve offer a compelling glimpse into the history of research.
The Museum of Ethnography's digital collection includes not only audio recordings, but also digital multimedia copies of material originally recorded or preserved on other media. Digitised portions of the museum's collections are currently stored on compact disc.
The Folk Music Collection actually offers only a very few original folk music recordings on CD. One of these is the Museum of Ethography recording of a CD to accompany the volume entitled Aranyosszék népzenéje (The Folk Music of Aranyosszék) by Piroska Demény, edited by István Pávai. Originally the museum's CD collection was founded with the intention of creating a digital archive of material previously preserved on earlier types of media. To date, the complete material of the Pátria series, including recordings of all media types together with the conserved musical scores, has been digitised. All museum phonograph recordings have been transferred to CD. Other current projects include the scanning of transcripts of the museum's phonograph recordings and the digitisation of the collection of music documents.
The curator of the collection is Krisztina Pálóczy.
Originally part of the museum's collection on folk customs, this group of religious artefacts gained status as a collection separate from that of children's toys and secular objects in 1968.
The earliest piece in the collection is a painted panel from the ceiling of a church in Ádámos, dating from 1526. Areas of the collection of especial interest include painted decorative items from the interiors of 18th century Reformed churches, as well as Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic icons and iconostases. Also forming a substantial part of the collection are glass pictures produced by the workshops of Central and Eastern Europe, and the work of 18th and 19th century monasteries. Separate from other artefacts in the collection are the 11,000 18th to mid 20th-century miniatures and icons that form the Paszternák collection, a product of the efforts of a single collector. A final significant portion of the collection is made up of objects used in religious processions, including miniatures of religious statues, icons, rosaries, votive objects, and offerings.
The curator of the collection is Krisztina Sedlmayr.
The Collection of Customs and Toys, currently numbering more than 8000 pieces, was founded in 1947 at the time the newly independent Museum of Ethnography organised its holdings into various thematic areas. It involves two large groups of artefacts: children's toys (more than 2700 pieces) and objects related to various folk customs (more than 2000 pieces), the latter of which includes a special collection of painted Easter eggs (more than 3300 pieces).
The collection offers examples of both individual toys and equipment used for games. Quite a few of the toys were of the type which develop dexterity: bats, balls, spinning tops, marbles, game sticks, and yo-yos. Most, however, were miniature versions of objects taken from the adult world: tools, vehicles, objects of everyday use, articles of clothing, musical instruments, and weapons. Many served to prepare children for a later life of work. Figures of animals and humans form a special group within the collection. Consisting primarily of dolls, a number of these are dressed in folk costume, while some were never actually used in play, but served rather as decorative items or souvenirs. Also related to the lives of children are implements of learning (slates, slate pencils, inkwells, books, exercise books, blackboards, and school satchels), which form a separate unit within the collection. Most of the toys are home made with natural materials, such as wood, vegetable materials, textiles, leather, bone, and stone, and from metal. The collection also includes a number of toys, some made of plastic, produced in the past few decades by factories or co-operatives.
Objects for daily use are subdivided into two major groups: objects related to the turning points of human life and calendar holidays or special days. To the former belong christening presents, coats of arms worn by eligible bachelors, props used by young men designated to wine and dine the musicians at Carnival festivities, trees of life used at wedding celebrations, engagement presents, dowry letters, sticks carried by best men at weddings, sweet breads, cakes and pastries served at wedding dinners, flags, forks, lanterns carried by young men when they asked for the hand of a girl in marriage, gift items, masks, and various objects used during funerals and times of mourning, such as grave stones, crosses, coffins, carved wooden poles used to bear coffins and temporarily mark graves, coffin nails, a type of bier known as the "St. Michael's horse," grave-digging shovels, funeral lanterns, scarves that were tied to carved wooden grave markers, and funeral wreaths and flags.
Of the several bodies of material dealing with customs related to the calendar year, the most substantial pertains to winter holidays. Included in this category are nativity scenes, mangers, and puppet theatres used for traditional nativity plays and processions; clothes worn by masked revellers on Luca's Day (pronounced "Lootza's Day,") the 13th of December, when people began preparing a magical wooden chair which will enable one to see witches at Christmas-time; bagpipes, swords, and sticks with chains used for Christmas minstrelsy (similar to carolling); stars used in the traditional dramatisation of the Journey of the Three Magi; whips used during the celebration of Childermas (or the Feast of the Holy Innocents); drums, cowbells, lashes, and sticks with chains used for greetings; special masks, knives, and whips. The collection also offers a number of Christmas tree ornaments, Christmas candles, Christmas trees, and pieces used to adorn the Christmas table (human and animal figures and nativity scenes).
Also in the collection are a number of objects associated with the Carnival festivities of the town of Mohács where people dress in special animal skins and masks, including artefacts used during the part of Carnival set aside especially for women.
Customs observed in the springtime are represented by a variety of items, including painted Easter eggs, tools for creating Easter egg designs, Easter apples, Easter lambs, the hoses used by young unmarried men to slosh girls with water (for which they might receive an Easter egg), the whips occasionally used in place of hoses as a variation on the same custom, the straw kisze figures representing winter that were burned for spring.
The museum's collection of painted Easter eggs and related artefacts, prodigious in size even by European standards, represents the most complete body of material within the collection. Assembled over the past one hundred years, these items provide a clear illustration of the range of techniques used in egg painting, the rich array of patterns involved, geographical aspects of the custom, and the role of the Easter egg in Easter tradition.
The curator of the collection is Hannah Daisy Foster.